Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend mass rallies in Tel Aviv and elsewhere Saturday night as part of the ongoing wave of socioeconomic protest that has been sweeping the country in recent weeks.
A Tel Aviv march is scheduled to depart at 9 pm from Kikar Habima – where the tent protest was launched – and make its way to Kaplan Street, ending with a huge rally featuring performances and speeches.
Well-known social activist and former member of the Black Panther movement in Israel, Charlie Biton, and Rabbi Benny Lau are expected to be among the speakers.
"I've embraced these guys since the beginning and I want to feel close to them and tell them that their demands are fair and appropriate," said Biton.
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Leaders of the protest movement said they hope to top the number of participants from last Saturday's rally, which drew an estimated 150,000 Israelis nationwide, tens of thousands of them in Tel Aviv alone.
"We are preparing to bring buses from all over the country and are being supported by Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, who called on all employees to attend the protest," said Chairman of the National Student Union Itzik Shmueli.
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The National Student Union also called on young activists to come with their family members. "Each person should bring their friends and family. This is the protest of the entire nation," Shmueli added.
Stave Shafir, one of the leaders of the housing protest, told Ynet about the overwhelming support they have been receiving: "Since last Saturday we've been getting constant comments from almost every person on the street, asking 'when's the next rally?'"
According to Shafir, the protest will not end until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cedes to protesters' demands. "The Knesset is going on vacation and it thinks this protest will phase out, but we'll show them that we aren’t going anywhere until our demands are met," she said.
Hoping to top last Saturday's protest (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Member of the protest movement leadership, Roi Noiman, said he expects a larger number of participants than last week's rally. "In the past few days we’ve witnessed a wave of sweeping energy against Israel's government and its obtuseness,' he noted.
Protesting on behalf of their husbands
Wives of police officers and Prison Service personnel are also expected to join Saturday's rally and protest their husbands' low salaries and working conditions.
"After 20 years, my husband's salary is still relatively lower than other public servants working in an eight-to-four job in the office," Sarit, who is married to a police officer, told Ynet.
"Every junior clerk in a governmental office makes more than my husband, who doesn’t get paid overtime for the many extra hours he puts in," she lamented.
The wife of a Prison Service employee also said she will join the protest because she and her husband can hardly make ends meet. "Israel Prison Service employees deal with the most dangerous people, but make a living that is inappropriate for the job.
"There might be other sectors that are worse off, like social workers or some of the teachers, but the cost of living that does not correspond with the wages is proof that we are all getting screwed. My husband may not be able to protest, but I sure can," she said.
Meanwhile, police are preparing to secure the mass rally. Hundreds of police officers from the Yarkon Subdistrict will be deployed Saturday evening along the route of the procession in order to maintain order and ensure the safety of the marchers.
Also on Saturday, Jerusalem was gearing up for its own rally in Kikar Tzion. Protests are also scheduled to take place in cities and towns throughout the country, including Ashkelon, Eilat, Hod Hasharon and Tzemah.
The Jerusalem rally organizers said they expect tens of thousands to attend the protest, which will mark the largest demonstration the Capital city has seen in recent years.
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